Over-the-counter drugs, especially cough and cold medications are becoming very popular as recreational drugs for young teenagers between the ages of 13 to 16. Hospitals have reported dozens of overdoses in the past two years, including five deaths where the abuse of over-the-counter medicines was a factor. Cold medicines such as Robitussin, Nyquil, Vicks Formula 44, and Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold tablets contain a chemical called Dextromethorphan (DXM), which is found in more than 120 non-prescription cough and cold medications.
Teenagers have various nicknames for DXM including: Robo, Skittles, Triple C’s, Dex, Vitamin D, and Tussin. Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold tablets contain much more potent doses of DXM than cough syrups, so the kids don’t need to drink a whole bottle of nasty tasting cough syrup. They can easily and conveniently take a few pills containing DXM to get high.
DXM costs just a few dollars as compared to other much more expensive illicit drugs. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of information on the Internet regarding how much DXM it takes kids to get high, and teens can easily log on to get the information they need.
The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies DXM as a “drug of concern” because if misused it can be very dangerous. However, there are no legal restrictions on purchasing the drug. Drug manufacturers have expressed sympathy regarding concerns about the abuse of DXM, but so far they have resisted efforts to restrict access to consumers.
DXM is a synthetic drug that is chemically similar to morphine and has been added to cough syrups and some cold medications since the 1970’s. Authorities say that DXM overdoses typically occur in clusters, as word of mouth spreads through community middle schools and high schools.
Growing concerns about DXM have led to some store chains and drugstores restricting access to products containing DXM, and to limiting the amount that can be purchased at any one time (Youth Risk).
DXM is not the only over-the-counter drug that teenagers are abusing. The list also includes diet pills, sleep aids, and motion sickness medication. Some teenagers use excessive amounts of diet pills in an attempt to lose weight quickly, others take them to get high. Diet pills are not meant for teens as they contain potentially dangerous ingredients. Even herbal diet pills can be dangerous as they are not well regulated by the FDA (Diet Pills).
Motion sickness pills such as Dramamine are being used by teens; taken in large doses (one entire package or more), Dramamine can cause hallucinations. Sleep aids such as Tylenol PM, Excedrin PM, and Sominex can cause extreme drowsiness when abused. Extreme drowsiness can be a problem and it can lead to Narcolepsy, which is characterized by short sleep episodes and sudden and abrupt weakness in the arms and legs. Sleep aids can also exert a stimulant effect that disrupts the teen’s regular sleep pattern (OTC Medications and Drowsiness).
Over the counter drugs can be extremely dangerous resulting in overdose, and even death. Parents should be aware of the dangers and to any possible abuse of these potentially dangerous over-the-counter medications.
“Diet Pills” These Days Teens are Crazy about Looking Good. 2004. 10 June 2022
“OTC Medications and Drowsiness” OTC Medications and Drowsiness. 2005. 12 June 2005 http://www.uspharmacist.com
“Youth Risk Death in Latest Drug abuse Trend” USA Today. 2003. 08 June 2022